Joe is a former college athlete and coach at the NAIA level, where he earned an NAIA National Championship. Joe is just one of many former college and professional athletes and coaches who are part of the Next College Student Athlete team. NCSA’s history of digital innovation and long-standing relationship with the college coaching community has made it the largest and most successful collegiate athletic recruiting network in the country.
In 2018, the Collegiate Commissioners Association (CCA) announced that all D1 and D2 sports will feature one combined National Letter of Intent (NLI) signing period from mid-November through August 1. The only exception to this change is that football and basketball will continue to observe a short early signing period, followed by a longer regular signing period.
Since this change to the NLI occurred, there have been no additional updates made by the CCA. This means that, like last year, student-athletes can expect college coaches to quickly sign their recruiting class on or close to the initial signing date.
Whether you’re a senior getting ready to sign an NLI or a freshman who’s starting to explore your college options, here are a few things you need to know about the NLI.
What is an NLI?
The NLI is a binding contact between the student-athlete and the institution in which they are agreeing to attend and compete for an athletic program. In order to sign an NLI, you must also sign an athletic aid agreement, in which the institution pledges to provide an athletic scholarship for one year. If you sign an NLI, you are required to attend the institution you sign with as a full-time student for one academic year.
Not all institutions require recruits to sign an NLI. Instead, some schools will offer an athletic aid agreement without an NLI to give recruits more flexibility and control over their recruiting decision.
What’s the penalty for not attending the school where you sign your NLI? If you attend another NLI member institution, you are not permitted to compete for one academic year while attending that institution as a full-time student and you lose one season of competition for all sports.
Who signs an NLI?
More than 48,000 student-athletes sign the NLI each year. To be eligible to sign an NLI, student-athletes must:
- be attending one of the 655 NCAA D1 and D2 NLI member schools.
- be enrolling at a four-year institution for the first time OR transferring to a four-year institution from a two-year college.
- have an athletic aid agreement or athletic scholarship accompanying the NLI. The institution must list the amount of athletic aid you are being offer for the entire academic year. Division 1 programs are permitted to offer multi-year athletic aid in an NLI.
Before signing the NLI, be sure to sit down with your parent or guardian to read through the document. Remember, this is a binding agreement.
How will you receive your NLI document?
You can receive an NLI via mail, email, fax, mobile app or any other electronic means. College coaches are not permitted to hand deliver an NLI or be present when you sign the document.
You must sign your NLI within seven days of the issuance date listed on the document. If you receive your NLI before the initial signing date, the issuance date will be listed as the first NLI signing date, not the date that the document was sent by the institution. Keep in mind that you are not permitted to sign the document until National Signing Day.
Can you be released from an NLI agreement?
The short answer is yes, but it’s not an easy process and student-athletes are not always successful in their efforts.
If you no longer want to attend the institution you signed with, you must request a release through the online release process located on the NLI website. It is at the institution’s discretion to release you from your contract or not. If the institution does not release you from the contract, there is an appeal opportunity through the NLI Committee.
When does an NLI become null and void?
If you are not admitted to the institution, fail to meet the eligibility requirements to receive athletic aid, or if the institution decides to cut your sport, your NLI will be declared null and void.
If your athletic aid is no longer available, you are called for service in the US Armed Forces or participate in an official church mission for at least 12 months, the institution can provide you a written statement verifying this, and your NLI will be declared null and void.
Here’s a look at this year’s (2019-20) signing dates:
|Sport||Initial Signing Date||Final Signing Date|
|D1 and D2 sports except basketball or football (regular period)||Nov. 13, 2019||Aug. 1, 2020|
|D1 Basketball (early period)||Nov. 13, 2019||Nov. 20, 2019|
|D1 Basketball (regular period)||Nov. 15, 2020||May 20, 2020|
|D1 Football (early period)||Dec. 18, 2019||Dec. 20, 2019|
|D1 and D2 Football (mid-year JC transfer)||Dec. 18, 2019||Jan. 15, 2020|
|D1 and D2 Football (regular period)||Feb. 5, 2020||April 1, 2020|
What happens after you sign an NLI?
Signing an NLI ends your recruiting process. After you have signed your NLI, no other college coaches are permitted to contact you or your family and you are not permitted to contact coaches at other institutions.
Remember, you can sign an NLI before you receive your amateur certification from the NCAA Eligibility Center, but you must complete your eligibility process and meet the school’s admission requirements to officially compete for a college program.